A week before the theaters were shut down around here, I got the chance to watch The Amen Corner by James Baldwin at Shakespeare Theater Company in D.C. Good play, but of course so much of the discourse was around whether it "qualifies" as classical theater (the same people were arguing about STC's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and King Charles III, and whether these plays stay true to the "mission" of classical theater).
To me, TAC ticks all of the boxes of a great classical play: namely, it feels like something out of Shakespeare or Williams or any other great writer. I'm not sure what precisely qualifies something as "classical" (I don't have a list), but the discourse got me to thinking about asking all of you what "classics" are often forgotten in the discussion. This is basically a recommendation thread, as I have found that plays with actual pedigree tend to suck less often.
Basically, I'm looking for some lesser-known works of "great theater" so that if I see them pop up, they're on my radar. If anybody other than STC had put on The Amen Corner or Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector or Mike Bartlett's King Charles III or Ellen McLaughlin's amazing adaptation of The Oresteia, I wouldn't have paid attention. But this is a company I know for their quality in choosing great plays, and so these caught my eye.
Of course, if Covid-19 keeps a lockdown going for a long time, a whole lot of companies are gonna get wiped out completely, so there may not be a wide variety of choice for a little while.
I always say Oscar Wilde's Salome is one and it's been filmed with big stars on the stage and easily available and yet very few have seen it - though that doesn't stop them from talking in our polls about Jessica Chastain like they "know" acting or know her at all.
Normally I think of "classical" theater as different from "modern" theater - just in terms of language - Williams, Miller, Albee, Osborne, Pinter are "modern" theater to me - even if they have many "classics" as opposed to "classical" but that may just be a matter of each person's definition.
In May I was supposed to go see James McAvoy in Brooklyn with Cyrano De Bergerac though no sure if that will still happen - but that's a classical play .
One of the ones I like and have seen done is The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht which is a very cumbersome play to see staged - but if it's done right it can be fascinating for many reasons including historical reasons (a gangster story that parallels Hitler - sort of what you often see done when Shakespeare is modernized like Ian McKellen's Richard III film).
It's a good play to read and know about in a lot of ways and you can learn a lot from it for language and meaning in the text. But I'm weird, I like to read plays and of course plays aren't often meant to be read like that - they're meant to be staged and seen.